It’s important to create a welcoming environment for your small group. Ideally, chairs are arranged around a table, or there are chairs in a circle. However, this depends on where you meet. You may decide to have some kind of devotional help (a reminder that your time together is set apart, such as a candle, cross or icon) or you may not. You may wish to have a written agenda for the evening, although that is also optional.
The most important thing is that your teens feel welcome and safe, and that you’ve made time to be together.
- An extra copy of Meeting Jesus in the Gospel of John prayer journal in case a participant forgets his or hers. (You can also reference the prayer journal online if necessary.)
- Books of Common Prayer for each participant, or access to bcponline.org. Hymnals optional.
- A bible (or smartphone; you can access a free New Revised Standard Version at bible.oremus.org) for each participant.
- Newsprint and markers
- Technology activity: Writing utensils for participants/paper unless using technology
- Craft Activity: Body-length pieces of butcher paper for participant(s), marker for each participant.
- Game Activity: Bible, scorekeeping tool of some sort (can be a piece of paper)
- Participants will be able to articulate that Jesus was fully human, and what the Incarnation of Jesus means in their lives.
Have the teen facilitator open in prayer, or invite one of the other teens to do so. You can invite them to spontaneously pray, or you can use this prayer:
Jesus, image of the invisible God, by your words and example, and by your divine life abiding in us, teach us to see and know the God of Love, whose Light and Life you came to reveal. Amen.
Using the process of mutual invitation as outlined in “Getting Started: Meeting Jesus” begin the check-in process with your group.
- The topic of the week is Jesus incarnate, literally, Jesus made flesh, Jesus embodied. Did you meet God in the flesh anywhere this week?
- How was the process of journaling? What surprised you? (N.B. this is a question about process “How did journaling/praying go for you?” not content “What did you journal about?”)
Small Group Activity:
Technology: Make a Listicle
This activity will help the participants understand that Jesus was fully human.
Work together to create a “listicle” of the top ten most annoying things about being a human. Come up with an outrageously stupid listicle title. If your group is ambitious or particularly talented, come up with accompanying gifs/memes. After you have your list together, go through each item and discuss how that issue would have affected Jesus who lived as a human.
Craft: Full Body Prayer
This activity will help participants link their bodies to prayer.
Take a roll of butcher paper and roll it on the floor. Ask for a volunteer who is willing to be traced. Trace the volunteer. Hang the outline of the body on a wall (or leave it on the floor and write on the floor.)
Write prayers overtop of each body part. These can be very simple, and follow a formula: “God be in/with my … so that I may …” For example, you might write, “God be in my heart, so that I may love” or “God be with my hands, so that I may serve.” At the end, have everyone stand up and pray all of the prayers together. Invite participants to touch the part of the body they are praying about while they pray.
Variation: Have each person be traced, and then have them write their own prayers separately. (Let them know that they will be invited to share some of the prayers with the group.) At the end, select a few body parts (e.g. mind, heart, hands, feet) and invite each person to pray their prayer after the leader says, “God be in our [mind/heart/etc.]”
Game: Oh the Humanity!
This activity will help participants see how Jesus was fully human.
Explain to participants that it’s sometimes easy to lose sight of how Jesus was fully human, and that they’re going to play a game. Every time that they hear something that Jesus did that was human, they stand up and shout, “OH THE HUMANITY!” and then they have to explain why that thing was human thing to do. If they can explain it, they gain a point. If they can’t explain, they lose a point. The person with the most points wins. If two people stood and shouted at the same time, the most theatrical shouter gets the opportunity to answer.
Open up a bible to a Gospel reading. Although this is Meeting Jesus in the Gospel of John, we recommended using the Gospel of Mark because it is particularly well-suited to this exercise. (If you do use John, find a spot that tells a story, and is not just discourse.) It doesn’t really matter where you start, as long as you start reading a story about Jesus in a Gospel.
Every time someone stands and shouts, “Oh the humanity!” stop reading and ask that person what was human about that. Award or take away points as needed, and keep going. You can play for a predetermined amount of time (ten minutes or longer) or for a predetermined length of scripture (a chapter or longer) or as long as the group keeps interest in the game.
Small Group Conversation:
Directed conversation is the heart of a small group, and can be especially helpful for teens as they figure out who they are and process their new life experiences. Some groups will be very good at these conversations, others will not initially be good at these conversations and will get better, and other groups will need a lot of help, or different approaches, like starting your conversations around group activities. It depends on your teens.
Here are some questions to get your conversation started. It may be that you move through all of them, or have a deep conversation with the first question you ask. You may choose to ask your own question that speaks to the needs of your group. What matters is that participants are engaged with each other. These questions are based on the experience of the God in individual lives, and responses will be unique to each person. There is no right or wrong answers, there is only further discussion and exploration of our relationship with God and one another.
Sharing our personal stories and accounts of faith is only possible in an atmosphere of trust and mutuality. Tips for a fruitful conversation can be found here.
What is awesome about having a body? What is terrible about having a body?
Have you ever broken a bone, gotten very sick, or had a concussion? Briefly share about a time that your body failed you. Given that experience, what does it mean to you that God also chose to have a body?
How does knowing that God experientially understands human limitations, physical pain, sickness and death change your relationship with God?
Do you think that our culture overvalues or undervalues bodies? Why? What type of bodies? How should Christians think about bodies, since God decided to have one too?
What does it mean that Jesus chooses to be in the world with us? What does that mean for how we should be in the world, too?
Digging Deeper into Scripture with John:
Sometimes it helps to have a text to work with as the group talks about a topic. This story about Jesus healing a man who had been sick for a very long time is found in John 5:1-9. Invite teens to get out their bibles and invite someone to read:
After this there was a festival of the Jews, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem.
Now in Jerusalem by the Sheep Gate there is a pool, called in Hebrew Beth-zatha, which has five porticoes. In these lay many invalids—blind, lame, and paralyzed. One man was there who had been ill for thirty-eight years. When Jesus saw him lying there and knew that he had been there a long time, he said to him, “Do you want to be made well?” The sick man answered him, “Sir, I have no one to put me into the pool when the water is stirred up; and while I am making my way, someone else steps down ahead of me.” Jesus said to him, “Stand up, take your mat and walk.” At once the man was made well, and he took up his mat and began to walk.
- What surprises you about this story?
- In the Gospel of John, Jesus often heals people in unexpected ways. What was unexpected about this situation?
- Why do you think Jesus asks, “Do you want to be made well?”
- Who are the people in our communities who have been sick for too long? How can we learn to pay attention to them? What can we learn from them?
Invite group members to share feedback with each other by using one of these prompts:
- Where did the group have a lot of energy? Where was the energy lacking?
- Where did you feel close to God? Where did you feel far away from God?
- Where did you meet Jesus in your session today?
- Where did you see light from the Holy Spirit?
- What did you notice about our time together?
- [If short on time!] Please describe our time together in one word.
- Remind group members that they will start with Week Three Day One in their journal tomorrow. The theme of the upcoming week is Close to the Father’s Heart.
- Remind participants that videos are available online, and that the social media campaign will be starting if they would like to participate online.
- Ask for a volunteer to lead worship next week, if this hasn’t already been decided.
- If there is a meal or refreshments, remind the group of their decisions regarding food and clean-up, or ask for volunteers.
Worship is the time we give thanks to God for all the gifts of our life and for our time together. Because Meeting Jesus in the Gospel of John is a gift of the Society for Saint John the Evangelist, a monastic order in the Episcopal church, we recommend using the Daily Office, which is a cornerstone of monastic life.
We recommend that group leaders (teen and adult) take time to plan the worship before the session but that teen participants do the reading, supplication, music leading, etc. Worship with teens can be low-maintenance as you like, the instructions are straightforward and in the BCP, or it can be quite elaborate. This will depend on your group and your available resources. However, making time for worship is actually crucial for creating a group that bonds together. Always be sure to end your sessions with enough time to pray together at the end.
Daily Devotions for Individuals and Families, found on pages 136-140 of the Book of Common Prayer, offers a wonderful and simple framework for your prayer time together. You may choose to use the recommended psalms and readings found in the BCP; supplement with our recommended readings; prayers and songs; or choose your own. Hymns may be sung a capella, or read as poetry. Be sure to make time for prayer intercessions, and encourage the group to pray for one another and loved ones.
For the week of The Word Became Flesh, we recommend:
- Scripture: John 1:1-5, 14, 16-18
- Hymn: My song is love unknown (Hymnal 1982 #458) What wondrous love is this (Hymnal 1982 #439)
- Collect: Jesus, image of the invisible God, by your words and example, and by your divine life abiding in us, teach us to see and know the God of Love, whose Light and Life you came to reveal. Amen.
If your group is meeting in the evening, you may also wish to use the service of Compline, found on page 127. This is a brief, beautiful, and very popular service.
Your worship leader may wish to do something more creative or context-specific, like use another liturgy, lead a meditation, invite participants into silence, lead participants in song, or use prayer beads together. There are many other ways to worship God. Taking into consideration the theme for the week, we invite you to explore what that might look like together.